Zip, zip, zippy; Zap, zap, zappy; H-A-P-P-Y; the Kenai Central cheerleading squad has a lot of reasons to be happy.
The Kardinals took the small varsity division at the Spirit Coaches Association state competition Saturday at Bartlett High School. The small varsity division is for squads with 12 members or less.
The Kards also took five-man stunt team, senior Jennifer Daniels took 10th in the individual competition and Kenai co-coach Kelly Gifford came away with coach of the year honors.
Gifford said the coach of the year was decided on by the National Cheerleading Association staff that was there judging the competition.
At the competition, each squad wrote a letter saying why their coach should be coach of the year.
Gifford said the thing that put her squad over the top was the ending of the letter: Zip, zip, zippy; Zap, zap, zappy; H-A-P-P-Y; We're happy.
"It's just a little cheer I always tell my cheerleaders," Gifford said.
The letter was not the only thing the Kenai girls teamed up to do well.
In the small varsity competition, the Kardinals had a 2 1/2-minute routine to show their stuff. Gifford, who is helped out by co-coach Wendy Rice, said the main contenders in the competition appeared to be Wasilla, Anchorage Christian Schools and Skyview, but then Wasilla faltered on a couple of stunts.
"When we heard Skyview was third and ACS was second, we just knew it was us," Gifford said.
It was Kenai's first championship in the fall state cheerleading competition in small varsity since 1992. Gifford also was coaching the team at that time.
The coach said the squad of 12 put in years of hard work to garner the title.
"This group of girls has been together for three or four years," Gifford said. "They are an exceptional group of cheerleaders, just exceptional."
The icing on the cake was the first place in five-man stunt team, in which teams are given two minutes to do as many stunts as they can to music. Kenai's Jessica Thomas, Jenessa Encelewski, Megan Moore, Chelsea Dietrich and Christine Gibbs were on the squad.
Other teams from the peninsula also had a strong showing. Gifford couldn't remember the last time the peninsula has done so well.
Skyview, coached by Misty Merriman and Lisa Legner, took third place in the small varsity competition. The Panthers also won the award for having the best jumps in their routine of any of the squads at the state meet.
"We were shocked," Merriman said. "We were like, 'We won that?'"
In the medium varsity division, Soldotna took third. The medium varsity division is for squads with 13 to 15 members. The Stars also took second in the small (12 members or less) junior varsity division.
Soldotna coach Jenniffer Rosin said Saturday was the best showing she has seen from the peninsula in her five years of coaching.
"The peninsula has really good coaches coming up, and there's been a lot of hard work on the part of the girls," Rosin said. "These squads want to be competitive within the state, and want to start competing nationally."
Finally from the peninsula, Nikiski, coached by Anna Johns, competed in the small varsity division but did not place.
"This competition did a lot of good for the girls," Johns said. "There were 300-500 cheerleaders from all over the state.
"They got to see a lot of new things and meet a lot of new people."
Spirit Coaches Association state competition
at Bartlett High School
Small junior varsity division -- 1. Bartlett; 2. Soldotna; 3. Palmer.
Small varsity division -- 1. Kenai; 2. Anchorage Christian Schools; 3. Skyview.
Medium varsity division -- 1. Colony; 2. Service; 3. Soldotna.
Large varsity division -- 1. Bartlett; 2. Chugiak; 3. West.
Five-man stunt competition -- 1. Kenai; 2. Bartlett; 3. Wasilla.
Coach of the year -- Kelly Gifford, Kenai Central.
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